A Delicious Alternative To Therapy

Jade Moon
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Wednesday - April 14, 2005
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I have discovered the ultimate escape. Right now I am watching a grandmotherly woman with a thick Southern accent mix up some ground beef, chopped bell pepper and onions, a scrambled egg and some oatmeal into a scrumptious-looking meat loaf. She smears the top with a ketchup-mustardbrown sugar goop. I am spellbound.

In the abbreviated world of the Food Network the meat loaf’s done in a sec. The woman — her name is Paula — cuts off a little slice of the steaming hot loaf and pops a bit of it into her mouth.

“Mmm,” she sighs, “ooh, it’s gooood.”

I believe her.

Lately Paula, Emeril and Rachael Ray have become my therapists. I am a news junkie and probably watch more than is healthy. But now when the news gets too intense or sad, I grab the remote and zap! — over to Paula, who at this moment is spooning a large portion of some kind of creamy peppermint pie into her mouth.

“Ooooh, it’s gooood,” she purrs.

I believe her.

I know — you don’t have to tell me that I am using the Food Network as an emotional crutch. It is my avoidance mechanism, my anti-reality. Instead of calling sources or doing research I sit mesmerized as Paula mashes potatoes and throws in a dollop of sour cream and some crunchy onions.

“Just sprinkle this with pap-a-reeka (paprika),” she says, and then she dumps in lots of butter and pops it into the oven.

Voila! The magic of TV allows her to pull it out a moment later, “all sizzlin.”

“Oh,” she says, smacking her lips, “it’s gooood, y’all.”

I think Paula is a goddess.

I know I’m not the only one with this strange obsession. Our lives are so hectic we don’t have time to cook every day. Weekdays are workdays. Weekends? Almost as busy. We are on the go and so are our kids, and that is why we watch people cook on TV. We seldom get to do it ourselves. Not the way they do it, anyway. But the greatest thing the Food Network has done for us is it has demystified the art of cooking. It has made it look easy. It’s no accident that one of the most popular shows on the network is called 30 Minute Meals. Most nights that’s how much time we have to throw dinner together. The host, Rachael Ray, says proudly that she is not a “chef”— she’s a cook. And that’s good enough for most of us. In fact, it’s downright comforting.

Of course, it’s never as quick or easy as the TV version. But that really doesn’t matter. It’s fun to watch and fun to attempt. Cooking’s something families enjoy doing together. It brings the focus of life back to home and hearth. That may sound retro, but it’s increasingly important in today’s dehumanized, frenetic world.

And besides — it’s way cheaper than therapy.

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